Edge of Darkness (BBC mini-series)

Edge of Darkness (BBC mini-series) (DVD Cover)

Recurring character(s): Ronald Craven (Bob Peck), Darius Jedburgh (Joe Don Baker), Pendleton (Charles Kay), Harcourt (Ian McNeice), Bennett (Hugh Fraser), Godbolt (Jack Watson), Emma Craven (Joanne Whalley)

Director: Martin Campbell

Original air date(s): 11/04/1985 to 12/09/1985
DVD Date: 11/03/2009

Rating: Not Rated
Running Time: 314 minutes

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Edge of Darkness (BBC mini-series)

Review: A film remake of this BBC television mini-series from 1985 was released earlier this year, and before I watched it, I wanted to see the original source of the material. Let me start by saying, I can only hope the remake is better -- much better -- than the original.

Ronald Craven is a police officer with the Yorkshire CID. Returning home one night with his 20-something daughter, Emma, they are accosted by a man with a shotgun, who seems intent on killing Craven. But Emma steps forward and takes the full force of the shotgun blast, killing her instantly. The subsequent investigation is focused on determining who from Craven's past would want to kill him, but Craven suspects that possibly Emma was the intended target. She was an environmental activist, working most recently on exposing the dangers of a local nuclear waste facility that is the target of a sale to an American company. Craven soon discovers that British government authorities considered his daughter a terrorist, and may have been complicit in her murder.

There's an interesting story here, but it is buried beneath nearly six hours of a meandering, nearly incomprehensible screenplay. There are long stretches of inactivity on the part of the characters -- mostly Ronald Craven staring off into space -- followed by brief stretches of really important stuff happening but glossed over. And then the cycle is repeated ... over and over again. You'll want to have your finger on the fast forward button whenever Craven is alone, then on the rewind button when other characters are on the screen to replay significant plot points that are covered in 10 seconds or so. There are six 50+ minute episodes here, but the first three could easily have been condensed into at most a single episode, actually probably half and episode, the final three into two.

Part, maybe much, of the problem here is with the character of Ronald Craven. Bob Peck alternately plays him in an understated, wallflower manner then suddenly overacts by shouting his lines in an effort to, I don't know, portray emotion? There's no depth of character here, and though he's in most every scene, I found myself bored with, eventually offended by, this insincere, generally unlikeable, performance. This is in striking contrast to virtually every other actor in the series, who I thought brought an interesting perspective to their character.

And then there's the whole contrived paranormal aspect to the story, which was so poorly handled that it should have been left on the cutting room floor. Whenever Craven is stumped in his investigation -- which is often -- Emma appears to give him a clue to lead him in the right direction. It was almost comical that whenever the plot stalled and needed a bridge from one point to another -- which is often -- Emma appears.

I really didn't like the BBC mini-series Edge of Darkness and certainly don't recommend it, but I must confess I'm now intrigued on how the film remake handles the story, in particular the character of Ronald Craven. Will he be the milquetoast as portrayed by Bob Peck, or will he be a strong intellectual character who cares about what really happened to his daughter? I'll have a review of that film soon.


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